A 6 AM start to today’a activities did not see everyone bright eyed and bushy tailed. After a two hour bus ride and some breakfast-to-go however, we were itching to begin the day’s activities. First on today’s agenda was a hike up to a Christ statue that we could then actually climb inside. As someone who liked to hike, I thought the hike itself was pretty short and yet it was still a bit of a sweaty mess due to the good ol’ Vietnamese heat and humidity. However, both the hike up and the view from the top after climbing through Jesus was incredible. Well worth the 5:30 wake up!
After experiencing the Body of Christ, we all filed back onto the bus and drove to the resort where we would spend the rest of the day, in the beach town of Vung Tau. Though the town looked like any regular town that we passed through on the way there (unlike beach towns in the US), the resort itself looked exactly as I had expected it to. This resort was absolutely spectacular and began with a beautiful pool where one side fell into a waterfall toward the actual beach (shown in the cover image). The actual beach was dotted with lounge chairs underneath beautiful hut-like umbrellas. The day was spent swimming in the ocean, swimming in the pool, laying in the sun, and reapplying sunscreen an absurd amount of times (this isn’t the Jersey sun folks!). We ate lunch at the resort in between all of our fun, and the dishes once again incredible – salmon, seafood fried rice, and a small plate of assorted desserts. I think our day at the beach was just what the doctor ordered!
Though our day was a carefree time of relaxation, today’s blog prompt brings about a more somber aspect of the day – the actual drive to the beach town. Leaving HCMC and driving through suburban and rural South Vietnam was a little bit of a shock to the system. Even though there are many instances of poverty in HCMC, I guess that poverty is a type of modern urban poverty Americans may be used to. As someone who lives within driving distance of Philadelphia, New York City, and Trenton, as well as attended school in Pittsburgh, scenes of urban poverty are not unfamiliar to me. The suburban and rural poverty we passed by were certainly scenes I was unfamiliar with, however.
We passed through several towns, and while we saw many businesses and pagodas, and even some official and modern looking government buildings, the thing I noticed the most were the small and extremely basic homes. We saw far too many shelters propped against fences or other buildings made from woven palm and sheets of metal that to my eye look unfit to live in. It does not escape me that while we are attending a University in HCMC and doing site visits with successful companies, these modern and nicer amenities are out of reach for most Vietnamese citizens. Not only did these scenes of poverty pose a stark contrast to the places we have been visiting in Vietnam, but also to my own life back in America. While there’s a surface understanding of the difference between living in a developed nation and a developing nation while in a major city like HCMC, leaving HCMC and traveling through these towns reinforced the great difference indeed between a developed nation and a developing nation, and I might go so far as to say a capitalist nation and a communist one.
After our resort day and much needed afternoon naps (and applying of aloe), we ended our day with thai food near downtown with the UEF students.
Overall, this was maybe the best day in Vietnam so far!